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Posted March 24, 2003 by publisher in US Embargo

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BY NANCY SAN MARTIN | Miami Herald

The Bush administration released new rules Monday that will allow more Cuban Americans to visit relatives on the island, restrict the kinds of groups that can participate in exchanges and increase the flow of money to Cuba, including funds meant to reach government opponents.

‘‘Overall, these changes are expansive, these are not constrictive,’’ said John Kavulich, president of U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a New York-based group that tracks the island’s economy.

Among the most dramatic changes in licensing rules:

Travel permits no longer will be granted to organizations that take individuals to Cuba to participate in ‘‘educational’’ exchanges that are not related to academic course work. The change will require more scrutiny of license applications.

UP TO $3,000

Travelers with relatives in Cuba can now carry as much as $3,000 in household remittances, up from $300, each quarter.

The increased amount is intended to help up to 10 households per traveler. However, the households of senior-level Cuban government officials or senior-level Cuban Community Party officials will not be eligible to receive quarterly remittances from any remitters.

Licenses will now also be issued to independent organizations designed “to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy.’‘

The so-called humanitarian activities will be expanded to include construction projects intended ‘‘to benefit legitimately independent civil society groups’’ as well as promote educational training in such fields as civic education, journalism, advocacy and organizing.

CUBAN CRACKDOWN

The revisions were released at the heels of a Cuban government crackdown on opponents with the arrests of at least 75 people whom Fidel Castro has accused of conspiring with American diplomats in Havana to dismantle the socialist system.

Cuban government critics applauded the economic outreach to dissidents on the island.

‘‘This means more ability for funding for dissidents or independent actors,’’ said Dennis K. Hays, executive vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation, an exile lobbying group that supports the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

“The timing is welcome. Clearly, what the Castro regime hopes is to stop this kind of activity.’‘

BUSH INITIATIVE

The new rules were in response to President Bush’s ‘‘Initiative for a New Cuba’’ announced last May, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which issues the travel licenses.

The president’s initiative is intended “to encourage freedom within Cuba, make life better for the Cuban people and give the Cuban people greater control of their economic and political destiny.’‘

The revisions took effect Monday but written comments on the changes will be accepted through May 23, meaning that the provisions could be altered.

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